España: Barcelona/Madrid/Valencia

I booked a one way ticket to Barcelona by myself with no plan and no expectations.

Barcelona                                                                                                                                 I booked my one-way flight to Barcelona with no plans. I figured I would find a hostel and walk around by myself, maybe go to the beach…to my surprise I experienced much more. Enric, a friend I met while he was studying abroad at UF last year, invited me to stay with him.  I didn’t realize when he invited me to stay with him meant that he would be my personal guide for the next 2 days. Enric wanted me to have the best experience possible while in his city and he made sure I saw everything. I was able to experience Barcelona from a local’s point-of-view and that is the best way to do it.

10143978613_5e2691445a_oDay 1: As soon as I arrived Enric pulled up Google Maps and explained to me how the city is set up, we then grabbed 2 helmets and hopped on his moped. Our first stop was up a mountain at beautiful overlook of the city. We then drove to Park Güell, which was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. After riding around for a couple hours we went back to his apartment and got ready for dinner. I didn’t realize how late everyone does things in Spain. We met up with his cousin for dinner at 9pm and ate delicious food. After dinner he invited a couple friends over to hangout. I’m used to being a foreigner and not understanding the language, but Enric made sure his friends spoke English around me and if they didn’t speak English he would translate everything for me. It’s funny how being friends with locals can make for such a difference and amazing experience.

10144280093_ecd722fd7b_oDay 2: We woke up and explored the city for hours. I enjoy getting lost, mostly because I believe it’s the best way to see a city. We stumbled upon many beautiful buildings and after the day of exploring I decided Barcelona is my favorite city I have visited in Europe. Don’t get me wrong I love Dubrovnik, but Dubrovnik isn’t real life. I could see myself raising a family and settling down in Barcelona when I’m older. Fingers crossed! While we were walking around this little man walked up to us and asked for directions. To his surprise we were very nice to him and we were actually heading in his direction so we offered for him to walk with us. He was shocked. He didn’t think locals and tourists were that nice so I’m glad we were able to prove him wrong. When we asked him where he was from his respond was “South Korea like the man from Gangnam Style” and he even did a little dance move along with it. Before he left us he asked to take a picture with us because we were his first friends in Spain. You never know whose day you’re going to make just by simply giving them directions. For my last night in Barcelona we went back to Enric’s cousin’s house. She invited a bunch of her friends over and we ordered Domino’s…yes, they actually eat Domino’s pizza in Barcelona.I was the only American who did not speak Spanish or Catalan and there was a guy from Portugal who spoke Spanish, Portuguese, & English, and everyone else in the room spoke Spanish, Catalan, and English. I used to laugh when foreigners would tell me that they can’t hear the difference between and Australian and an America, but I don’t laugh anymore because I realized I can’t tell the difference between Spanish and Catalan. The entire night everyone would switch between English, Spanish, and Catalan and it was definitional as humorous as it sounds. I learned you just have to laugh at the entire situation.

10144209506_a60d864564_o10144940733_70bcccc51d_o10144818636_8456498374_oMadrid:                                                                                                                                  At the end of my journey in Barcelona I planned the rest of my holiday. I was fortunate enough that I was able to visit my friend Natalia who is spending this semester in Madrid.

10145418126_b5e4444d01_oI didn’t think I would like Madrid, mostly because I loved Barcelona so much and I really like cities by the sea. Clearly I was wrong.

Day 1: As soon as I arrived Natalia had our day planned out and it mostly consisted of eating amazing food. We went to a local restaurant for the special of the day which was 2 plates of ham and a pitcher of sangria. What a wonderful way to start my adventure in Spain. After our 2 plates of delicious ham we went and got churros which are basically fried dough that you dip in melted chocolate. After all of the dough was gone we ate the chocolate as if it were soup. I was perfectly content with a day dedicated to eating and relaxing.

10145392873_3de5a9dc0a_oDay 2: My second day in Madrid consisted of exploring as usual. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like to do touristy things, especially walking tours or museums. Our first stop was to a really cool street market. After a couple hours of shopping we decided to grab burritos and bring them to a local park to eat. Once we got the burritos it took us about an hour to find the spot in the park that Natalia was dying to sit at. I was in Spain, eating Mexican food, sitting in an Egyptian temple. Yes, Spain is a very cultured country. After we finished out delicious burritos and explored the temple we went to visit the Royal Palace. I definitely wouldn’t mind living there.

10144056365_678cf624e4_o

10144100796_23ac4b0af6_oMadrid definitely exceeded my expectations and it was thanks to Natalia and the amazing food!

Valencia:
This is the first city I have ever stayed in a hostel by myself. Valencia might not have been my favorite city, but I still had an incredible time. The first night in the hostel I met a guy named Lubo. He is originally from Czech, but grew up in Florida and Czech. Coincidentally he graduated from UF! He might be the most interesting and inspiring person I’ve ever met.

Gator Chomp

Gator Chomp

Day 1: The first night we relied on Yelp for a good restaurant and it was a wonderful decision. We ate the best food I think I’ve eaten in Spain so far (that says a lot because I ate delicious food everywhere in Spain). Compared to Barcelona or Madrid, Valencia is a pretty quite city. We were sitting at dinner talking and telling stories when all of a sudden a man walks up to us and tells us to be quite. After dinner we wondered the streets of Valencia for a while and we met up with a bunch of travelers from our hostel and just sat outside and talked until it was time to go to sleep.

Day 2: Lubo is also one that doesn’t like touristy attractions so we decided to rent bikes and ride to these lakes that were just outside of Valencia. On our way to the lakes we drove through a long park that led to the City of Arts and Sciences. We found a huge rope gym where we climbed to the top and hung on the ropes for a little bit until we continued our bike ride. We stopped at a store that reminded me of a Spanish version of Cosco where we picked up some food for a picnic. What we thought was going to be a13 km ride turned into 23km each way. For us American’s that equals approximately 30 miles when we count the time we spent lost. When we finally arrived to what we thought would be beautiful lakes turned out to be a bunch rice fields. On our way back we topped at the beach to relax and swim. Swimming turned into taking a siesta on the beach because there were jelly fish everywhere. When we finally got back to Valencia to return the bikes we were able to sign the wall and represent the Gator Nation. After walking around the city a little more and eating Valencia’s famous Paella it was time to go to sleep.

10145814123_afe54e1ab9_o10143957956_9395f589c1_o10144024316_f0cc9afcfe_o10144027133_94df408358_oMy journey through Spain was everything I could’ve hoped for and much more. Spain was never a country that really appealed to me. I ended up traveling Spain because 1. It was the cheapest flight out of Dubrovnik and 2. I wanted to visit my friends. Growing up around Spanish people my entire life I thought I already knew the Spanish culture, clearly I was wrong. I know for a fact I will return!

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